W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > May 2009

Re: HTML interpreter vs. HTML user agent

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Fri, 29 May 2009 15:00:43 -0700
Cc: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-id: <AB4C05FD-EBA0-413A-9F26-3758D79E0E7B@apple.com>
To: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>

On May 29, 2009, at 1:37 PM, Sam Ruby wrote:

> Ian Hickson wrote:
>> On Fri, 29 May 2009, Sam Ruby wrote:
>>> As to whether or not everybody will accept that the rules written  
>>> in HTML5 apply to everybody, I submit the following as a test case:
>>> http://status.aws.amazon.com/rss/EC2API.rss
>>> Heck, it is not clear to me that *browsers* will accept that that  
>>> particular rule applies to them.
>> Could you elaborate on how this doesn't work with the rules in  
>> HTML5? (Or rather, with the rules in Adam's ID?)
> That resource is served with a text/plain mime type, and therefore  
> should not be treated as a feed.
> At the present time, both IE8 and Firefox treat that document as a  
> feed.
> My assessment is that Firefox will continue to follow IE's lead in  
> this area, but I will gladly defer to those who actually work on the  
> product.
> Independent of how that is resolved, and despite the fact that the  
> HTML 5 documented approach has been adopted by the likes of  
> SimplePie, it is not my expectation that feedreaders will follow the  
> HTML5 spec's guidance on this and they get observably better (as in  
> less false negatives) results by ignoring the MIME type.  In  
> particular, Google Reader is an example of a feedreader which will  
> happily allow you to add this page as a subscription.

The sniffing rules forbid detecting a text/plain resource as text/html  
for security reasons - detecting a "safe" resource as one that  
contains embedded script could create security risks for some sites.  
But these security reasons don't apply to feeds as far as I can tell.

I think it's important to some extent that feed readers and browsers  
interoperate on this. If I see a link in a Web page or mail message to  
a feed, then clicking it should be able to open my configured feed  
reader of choice. Conversely, if I take a feed URL that works in my  
feed reader, and paste it into a Web page, then my users should be  
able to click that link and get a feed.

The feed reader de facto behavior of trying to parse anything (even  
video/quicktime or image/jpeg) as a feed is problematic in this  
regard. If you only test in a feed reader, then you can easily  
accidentally make feeds that can't be linked to from Web pages.  
Indeed, many feed readers these days have limited built-in Web  
browsing, so they might be unable to follow links to feeds that they  
could support if you entered the URL in their subscribe UI.

However, I can imagine that feed readers would be reluctant to drop  
support for text/plain feeds especially, since they are apparently  
fairly common, and there is no security benefit to outweigh the  
compatibility risk, as is the case with text/html. Thus, I think the  
right thing to do is to do as Adam suggests and allow sniffing of  
feeds (but not HTML) from text/plain. It would also be great to get  
direct input from authors of feed readers on what changes they would  
be willing to consider.

Received on Friday, 29 May 2009 22:01:22 UTC

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